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Straight Talk About Braces for Adults

It’s never too late to perfect your smile — just ask the increasing number of adults who are rushing to the orthodontist.

Thinking about getting braces? Experts say it’s never too late. These days, adults make up nearly half of orthodontic patients hoping to finally get the perfect smile they’ve always dreamed about.

Braces have evolved considerably in the last 15 years. Breathe easy, the days of being a true “metal mouth” are over and more lightweight and cosmetically friendly options are out there.

Bracing for Braces

But why now? Maybe the reason is as an adult you can afford braces when your parents couldn’t or you are simply more conscious of the cosmetic and health benefits of having straight teeth.

Most people want a great smile, and adults know that it can make a great difference not only in their personal but also their professional lives. Many say the payoff is worth the temporary inconvenience and expense of braces.

“Patients that I see now, I think there’s an initial concern, but if they really and truly want the braces, they’re not that concerned once they make the decision. Once they’ve made up their mind to get them, they fall right in because they either know someone that had them before or they’ve seen their kids go through it and they want the same thing for themselves,” says Duane Anglin, DDS, a dentist outside of Baltimore who decided to get braces during dental school. He says he has no regrets.

“From a professional standpoint, I think I’m a lot more comfortable walking in the room and saying hello, good morning, and meeting a new patient for the first time, because in the back of my mind it was always, ‘How am I going to be a dentist and have teeth that are not straight?'” he says.

Sebastian says age shouldn’t be a worry. He says as people live longer, he sees more adults of all ages interested in preserving their teeth. Senior citizens are even becoming more common in his practice.

The Healthy Smile

Dental professionals say there are also health reasons for having a correct bite.

“With teeth that are in cross bite, teeth that are misaligned, there is an increased chance of plaque buildup, food buildup in between your teeth, which is a trickle-down effect because the more food buildup, the more plaque; therefore, the more concern for periodontal disease and gum disease,” Anglin tells WebMD. Improper bite also means you can’t chew food properly, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems, he says.

So how do you get that Hollywood smile? There are more options than ever. With traditional braces, you can select metal or clear/ceramic braces, but there are pros and cons.

“Traditional metal braces — if the patient has a significant bite problem or severelycrooked teeth — are slightly more effective at moving teeth than clear braces. If you came to me and said, ‘I want my teeth as straight as fast as possible,’ and you had really crooked teeth, then I’d say put metal braces on,” Sebastian says.

Often, adults hoping to avoid “metal mouth” go the clear route.

“I’m not embarrassed about having [braces] at my age because you see a lot of people now, young adults, even older adults wearing braces,” says Ivy Horn, a lawyer in Atlanta who is considering clear/ceramic braces after already wearing metal braces as a teen. “In my field I do a lot of speaking when I am in court a lot. I just think it would look better if I had the clear braces rather than the metal braces so people aren’t focusing so much on what’s in my mouth but the words that are coming out of my mouth.”

Invisalign vs. Braces

Another option for the vain at heart is Invisalign. Patients wear a series of clear, removable orthodontic aligners that are adjusted as the teeth shift into place without metal or wires. A series of custom-made aligners are worn each for a period of two weeks. Each aligner moves the teeth progressively into place. Average total treatment time: a few months to 1 1/2 years. While orthodontists say Invisalign can be a good alternative to traditional braces, there are limitations.

A critical component of braces are the end game — wearing the retainer. “It used to be, your teeth are straight, you wear retainers for a year, it will never change. Well, we know that’s just not fact. Now we have to tell patients to plan on retention for years; lifetime retention is the word that they use now,” says Sebastian, who has a number of patients who are repeat orthodontic clients.

 

 
This article was adapted from WebMD